Debunking and Confronting Science Denial

Josh RosenauShauna Theel John Cook

     Josh Rosenau           Shauna Theel             John Cook


When: Wednesday, May 28, 4 PM EST/1 PM PST

Description: How should we respond when a weathercaster on TV says climate change isn't happening, or a school board member says evolution shouldn't be taught, or another parent at the playground repeats long-debunked claims about vaccine risks, or a student in class repeats a canard about the age of the earth? What do we do as individuals who care about science (even if we aren't experts on the science under attack)? How can local networks of science education advocates respond to such instances of science denial?

Our first instinct is usually to try correcting the false statement, but too often that drags us into an endless discussion, or into topics where we don't know enough details to debunk every claim. Fortunately, there are resources out there to help fill in the blanks on common claims, and time-tested techniques to move people away from their false beliefs.

A panel of experts in the field will describe these resources and the techniques they've found effective, and webinar participants will have time to ask questions and practice their debunking skills. Participants without any experience will learn how to avoid common pitfalls and gain the confidence to confront science denial on their own, and experienced debunkers will have a chance to hone their skills and share their own experiences.

The panel will include Shauna Theel from the climate and energy project at Media Matters for America, John Cook of and the University of Queensland's Global Change Institute, and be moderated by NCSE's Josh Rosenau. Shauna will discuss her work addressing media misstatements and how citizens can correct the record. John will describe the debunking resource and the Debunking Handbook he co-authored, and Josh will talk about the experience he's gained debunking science denial at NCSE.

Resources from the webinar are listed below. Anyone interested in debunking creationist claims should especially refer to the Index of Creationist Claims, while those interested in debunking climate change denial claims should check Skeptical Science. The Index of Creationist Claims has app versions available for iOS and Android, and Skeptical Science as an app for iOS and Android.

John Cook and Stephan Lewandowsky's Debunking Handbook is a valuable resource for understanding what techniques work best in debunking, and what techniques are likely to inadvertently reinforce bogus beliefs. The webinar panel refer to the Handbook frequently.